New Years Eve, 1994, me, JJ, Curry (photo by Susie the Dentist)
If memory serves, the New Year was rung in with gratis cheap champagne served in plastic glasses (with detachable stems), and 8 or 9 underinflated balloons tossed out of a garbage bag, all courtesy of the divey bar in which we boothed ourselves.
It's still with me, though I'm improved. The Girl was examined by our pediatrician as she still throws up everything. The doc prescribed Zofran to keep her from doing that anymore and though she is mildly dehydrated she's not to the point of needing an IV.
The problem with a 22 month old who's sick is they can't be contained. They just get sick wherever they happen to be. So the house now has an odor that can't be described, but no doubt has hindered our recovery. Her blowout yesterday led to my additional output. Thanks kid. We're hoping we have it under control now and things will begin to improve for all of us.
The Boy apparently has a cast-iron stomach. He alone remains unaffected. Stud.
In the "no good deed goes unpunished" department, the saintly neighbors that watched the kids whilst my mate was hospitalized are now paying for their kindness with the same bug. At this rate the neighborhood may soon be filled with the sounds of wretching.
And the topper? As I made the Boy's dinner last night while my wife and daughter were at the doc's, the combination of his food and my olfactory sensitivity to the Girl's deposits set me off and in my rush to get to the sink I slipped. My hand grasped the counter to save me, but in doing so I believe I reinjured the wrist that so recently was surgically repaired. It is astonishingly painful and my stomach is not allowing me to take any kind of pain reliever. It has taken me 45 minutes just to type this.
The month of December is the cruelest month of all.
The wife is still in her hospital bed, but tells me she's feeling better and most of her nausea is gone (and she was loaded up with anti-emetics to keep it from coming back). The Girl seems to have an appetite this morning though that is probably because she needs ammunition come afternoon. The Boy seems fine, thank goodness, though I wish he had a little less energy.
And I have now succumbed. I race from their breakfast prep to the toilet, to the hand sanitizer, and back to breakfast for them. This is not pleasant. Nuff said.
I've taken some of my wife's morning-sickness prescribed Zofran and it seems to be staying down. It has the wonderful effect of preventing the actual vomitting while doing nothing to alleviate the feeling that you are on the verge.
If any of you are eyeing this little bug as an option for post-holiday weight loss I suggest you hold it in reserve - a last resort - in case amputation doesn't do the trick.
The holidays are warm and wonderous. This year was especially so, filled as it was with magic family time. We gathered together, eager with anticipation, and looked at one another... to see which would be the next to hurl.
The Girl started us off properly on Christmas Eve. Tucked into her bed as visions of sugarplums did more than dance in her head. They spun and spun. When she didn't join her brother's waking Christmas morn we checked her to see "what was the matter". The contents of her stomach were littered across her bed and blankets and stuffed animals and pajamas and hair. Christmas interruptus. We bathed and changed the queasy one and went about our holiday. She has never done that before so we were surprised.
Sadly, she deemed that surprise to be applause and so graced us with an encore on Christmas night. I heard her cry out and discovered more digestive displays. She was bathed and re-jamied. Our concern was only moderated by her otherwise good mood. She seemed fine with no hint of fever or continued nausea.
The next day she functioned and ate (albeit less than normal) and we felt assured the bug had passed. Yeah... not so much. Last night (Friday) she completed her nocturnal triptych with another midnight pollocking of her bed linens (the three ruined pillows are coming out of her college account). My wife (and fellow haz-mat cleaner) and I agreed that three nights equals a trip to the ER. My wife suggested, however, we wait till morning as she had just left the hospital and the ER had a three hour wait. With the girl cleaned and returned to slumber we turned in ourselves.
At 5:30 am I was awakened by the sound of regurgitation. Oh no, said I, not the Girl again. But she was sleeping soundly. No these sounds belonged to my wife who had arisen at 1:30 and in the following four hours had given her all and then some to the new holiday tradition. I found her seated on the toilet with a trashcan on her lap. She was unable to speak to me but the image said enough.
So the Boy, enviably healthy, happy and hungry, was trundled off to the neighbors (sainthood seems imminent for them) and I transported the nauseated female members of the family to the hospital. Once there I delivered my daughter to the ER, but my wife being 33 weeks pregnant went alone to maternity triage to cure what ailed her.
The Girl in a thankfully short time was diagnosed with the catch-all, gastroenteritis, and deemed sufficiently hydrated to return home. We slipped upstairs to check on her mother. Alas, mom was still ill, but now with the added complication that her substantial dehydration had triggered uterine contractions - the start of labor. They were infusing her as rapidly as they could in order to stop this stomach bug from driving the fetus out of the womb. A baby born 7 weeks premature is bad enough, but to add a mother who spends the delivery wretching and suffering uncontrolled diarhea is just bad form.
I called our saintly neighbors to inform them that not only would I not be getting the Boy but I would need to drop off the Girl (recent wreckless vomitter) into their arms. Bless them for coming to get her from me. Soon after that our midwife decided it was best just to admit my sickly mate for 24 hours as the contractions did not appear to be abating, nor was her nausea, nor her other digestive issues.
I stayed with her through 3 liters of saline, watching the contractions get weaker and farther apart (sort of reverse labor). I grew more relieved, though the blood pressure readings did not improve - 87/39 is very low. I was finally forced to leave and pick up my kids. I kissed my wife (on the forehead) and told her to get some rest.
The children returned home with me after their delightful day of fun with the saintly neighbors who played with and fed them. Of course, once inside my home my daughter immediately stood in the center of the kitchen and let loose all she had consumed today - a flow equalling Niagra poured from her. That was followed by explosive diarhea. Apparently, she's still not well.
In my absence the cat threw up as well, on my rug. The Boy informed me this evening his tummy feels funny - "kinda sick". Oh, and my stomach is doing backflips as I type this.
Our Acura is a pretty spirited machine and drives more like a sports sedan than an suv. It's very fast. That said there's an electronic governor that prevents it from going faster than 118 mph. Now I can't imagine a situation where I would need to do 100, much less 118, but that number - 118 - just seems rather arbitrary.
As long as I'm pointing out the maligned OMD, I'll go a step further and sing the praises of the ignored.
Talk Talk, new wave's most musically travelled, flew through a decade producing 5 albums along the way - each different from the other, each progressing further from their hair band roots and into something deeper, more fantastical and ultimately uncategorizable. Their last album achieved a pinnacle of artistry that no other new wave popsters ever approached (and even fewer of their brethren understood).
Dumped by their record company for producing nothing remotely commercial with their fourth album, Talk Talk signed to Polydor for that last outing. Polydor, in an act of deep respect for the work actually revived the retired jazz imprint, Verve, for the album's release.
The lyrics are mumbled and muddled - even the liner notes are illegible - but they all allude to deep and personal battles of spirituality and the tragic struggle that entails. There are moments of shocking awareness where we feel uncomfortably close to the essence of another's soul and its fragility is terrifying.
It's not until a minute and 45 seconds in that it reaches its full momentum. The song is like a free jazz quilt with an experimental pop bent. It's hard to say if it's Mark Hollis or Tim Friese-Greene who's responsible for the meditative organ that holds the song together, but it's definitely the percussion of Martin Ditcham and the drums of Lee Harris that give the song its throbbing energy.
For a ten-minute song that actually relies on a verse-chorus-verse structure, Mark Hollis barely seems to sing at all, as long instrumental passages with all players weaving in and out of each other's notes and sounds rule the song. But when he delivers the devastating "Shake my head, turn my face to the floor, dead to respect, to respect to be born, lest we forget who lay" the song takes on a tangible and powerful, if cryptic meaning. That Hollis pours so much passion into "After the Flood" makes it one of the true highlights of Laughing Stock.
It might take repeat listens for some people to appreciate "After the Flood"'s subtle grace, but this necessity is a testament to the song's and the album's daunting complexity.
And of the track, Ascension Day:
Wailing, scratching violas tear at the song's walls. Mark Hollis goes back and forth between pristine guitar notes and epic electric storms, all the while offering stream of conscious, nonsensical vocals like "Farewell fare well/Mother numb to and devout to/Reckon luck sees us the same." It's as if he's rediscovering his sense of humanity and knowledge of language at the same time, while accepting that he'll "burn on judgment day."
Martin Ditcham adds some levity via harmonica, but even then, his contribution packs more disturbing feelings into the song's growling belly. The track's shockingly abrupt ending, as if all the recording equipment has suddenly lost power, is a stunning act of defiance and a refusal to adhere to traditional musical structures. Uplifting, yet creepy, "Ascension Day" sounds like an abstract film score transformed into a glorious rock movement.
Sadly, the album came out at a moment when musical tastes changed suddenly and profoundly. Around the time of its release another little album was released as well - Nirvana's Nevermind - and the tidal wave of grunge and DIY and lo-fi that followed drowned out this masterpiece.
Post-rock music would not exist as we know it were it not for Laughing Stock. Its mix of jazz, classical, and experimental atmospherics has few precedents. Though it should take nothing more than the distorted and lengthy single-note guitar solo on After The Flood to convince anyone, in my opinion, no recording of the last twenty years has been more unjustly ignored.
Laughing Stock continues to grow in stature and influence by leaps and bounds...
...A work of staggering complexity and immense beauty, Laughing Stock remains an under-recognized masterpiece, and its echoes can be heard throughout much of the finest experimental music issued in its wake.
That a band which was once lumped into the dance-oriented new wave scene was able to create a career-capper of an album as challenging and sparse as Laughing Stock and do so in such a staggering, uncompromising manner is further testament to its genius.
If you've never heard it, indulge. If you have, revisit. Hear it.
A little text convo with Curry this am bout his latest project led to a discussion of the oft-maligned OMD. Prior to becoming 80's electro-popsters and John Hughes soundtrackers, they were much more interesting. Their masterpiece, the dark valentine to 20th century technology, Dazzle Ships, remains, twenty-five years on... well... dazzling.
Pop music today would not be the same without them and Arcade Fire's everything but the kitchen sink stage show owes more than a little tip o' the hat to the boys.
Well, Bristol Palin's baby is due tomorrow and to celebrate that fact the baby's grandmother, Levi's mom, Sherry Johnston, got herself arrested yesterday on 6 felony counts of "producing and/or distributing narcotics." The arrest came at the "conclusion of an undercover narcotics investigation."
Welcome to your (seriously fucked up) world, Little One!
10. Osama bin Ambulance Chaser Campbell 9. Dahmer Amin Stalin Telemarketer Campbell 8. Torquemada Hussein Waterboarder Campbell 7. Progresso Chunky Minestrone Campbell (They enjoy soup; who knew?) 6. Oswald Sirhan Booth Insurance Company Campbell 5. Rove Cheney Bush Limbaugh Campbell 4. Stained For Life Future Juvenile Delinquent Campbell 3. Save Time And Arrest Me Now Campbell 2. Better Not Get Pulled Over By Any Jewish Cops Campbell
And the Number One Rejected Name for Adolf Hitler Campbell:
For some reason, perhaps because it's so freakin cold, the kids awoke this morning with far too much energy. It had to be channeled somewhere. That meant it was time for the infrequent, but much beloved...
Stupendous, Electro-House, Mashup, Dance Party!
It should be noted that while the Girl's primary motion was either a smooth waltz-like glide or a Lemmy head-bang, the Boy has upped the ante. Where previously he was basically working the Dead-head school of dance, there are now: spins, a variation of a moon-walk (where did he pick that up?), hand movements that on the wrong side of town might be considered gang signs, and a wicked one-hand-behind-the-back-bend-at-the-waist-wag-your-finger-Jagger move that popped my top.
Cue the tracks maestro... (you can DL the tracks free, of course, from the highlighted links - just right click and save target)
NoCal and SoCal are officially divided this morning as every road connecting the two (except the impossible Pacific Coast Highway) is closed due to snow. I say we make it permanent - take a cue from the Dakotas and the Carolinas... and Pavement.
One of the fringe benefits of having young kids is that you are subjected to children's television. I say benefits because it isn't all bad. The wonders of Kipper have been revealed to me more than once and it's a favorite of mine for it's jazzy score and simple, sometimes surprisingly philosophical, stories.
But the one that has become my great delight is Little Bear. Even when the kids aren't home or interested I will turn on some episodes, kick back on the sofa, and slip in to its wonderous world. It really is the best children's television I've come across. It isn't loud or obnoxious; it isn't patronizing or stupid, it isn't hawking a product tie-in or some other marketing gimmick - it's merely gentle stories told well.
I got the kids some Little Bear DVDs for Christmas - they're hard to find and Amazon is the only place I was able to nail them down. I'm perfectly willing to admit now that they're as much for me as for my little ones.
My wife finds the show incredibly dull, but I think she just hasn't had enough exposure to let its pacing and quiet tone work wonders on her soul. Try one.
If you're stumped for that special person on your list or just need another stocking stuffer, how bout giving the gift of meat fragrance? Burger King has released its own cologne called Flame that lets the wearer smell just like a Whopper. No, I'm not kidding.
In their words:
Behold the scent of seduction, with a hint of flame-broiled meat.
In the baby name game we have all heard horror stories, but naming your kids Adolf Hitler Campbell and JoyceLynn Aryan Nation Campbell has just moved to the top of the list. The birthday cake fiasco is the cherry on top.
There is something fascinating (I hesitate to say, enviable) about toddlers and their... um... waste issues. The Girl will often suggest to us now, a potty use break, though she doesn't really use it yet. She isn't quite ready to begin serious work, but we're happy to indulge her when she toddles off to her little seat in the bathroom. We, of course, don't disrobe her until she arrives (that would be madness) and in the course of her journey to the bathroom she will occasionally become distracted - a book here, a bright shiny bangle there just can't be resisted. Distraction is ok though - there's that backup system in place; a safety net, if you will.
It must be comforting to know that even when nature calls, regardless of the call's urgency, you can afford to put it off if something more interesting comes up.
I have, over the last fifteen years or so, become something of a connoisseur of Christmas songs. I seek them out and save them. From the moving to the cheesy to the sacrilegious, I find, I listen, I add them to my collection. As a result, this time of the year my family is subjected to all manner of holiday audio assaults. It's my thing.
I have my personal favorites, both old and new. My Morning Jacket's Christmas EP from a couple of years ago is one. There are also some stunning bop jams worked from Christmas standards that I'm fond of.
There is one however, that I have been unable to track down. The recording is out of print and I have yet to find a DL that is still intact. It remains as haunting now as it was the first time I heard it. A standard carol, It Came Upon A Midnight Clear, this arrangement is dropped down into a minor key. The singer, Sam Phillips, solemnizes it, but she also imbues it with a deep sadness and - almost - dread. It originally played over the end credits of the film, "A Midnight Clear" - an equally moving and sad story of disaster overwhelming a desire for peace in this season.
Bruce Cockburn later used the same arrangement (and rightly credited Phillips for it) to great effect and had some success with it, but it isn't the same.
The only thing I can offer you is someone's montage of the film backed by the song. The song itself does not begin until around 1:50 in.
Last night I made meatloaf. I made it for my wife. Her mother made it frequently during my beloved's youth and so it's a comfort food. Her mother sent me the recipe at my wife's request. I don't follow the recipe. I make the loaf differently. I make the sauce differently.
As I made it last night it occurred to me (not for the first time) that I don't ever follow recipes. I may start with one, but I bastardize it in the process. I just can't seem to follow directions to the letter. Perhaps I think too highly of my own kitchen skills: that 1/2 tsp of thyme would be better as a full tsp; that sauce would hold its own with cream rather than butter; the scones don't need that much sugar.
I read recipes mostly for ideas and not for the directions. Cookbooks are for light reading; not to be used in my world as manuals. I honestly don't know if what I make is better than the author intended because I've never tried the original. I'm just too lazy or cocky or, perhaps, inept to color inside the lines.
Baking is different as the chemistry is intrinsically part of the magic, but that need to stick with those exacting measurements is probably why baked goods are rare in our home. I just can't follow the rules well enough to dedicate myself to lovely cakes or delightful pastries.
I could never do the French Laundry at home. I am too much the kitchen scofflaw.
The last recipe I followed to the letter (kind of) was when the the Cluteaus (the Burks?) visited us a couple of months ago. RC remains a vegetarian and being a decent host I indulged her dietary needs with a recipe from Thomas Keller for gnocchi with squash and shitake mushrooms. The fact that the recipe comes from Keller guarantees a degree of difficulty in preparation and timing. I had to follow directions. I cheated though and produced my own gnocchi rather than his - too much damned work. The rest though was followed to the letter. It was great and I doubt that any innovation I might have come up with would have improved it one whit.
So I offer you Mr. Keller's "Gnocchi with Mushrooms and Butternut Squash". Impress your friends and family, but don't mess with it - you can't make it better.
One 2 1/2- to 3-pound butternut squash (one with a long neck) Canola oil 1 tablespoon unsalted butter Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper 12 small sage leaves 12 ounces shiitake mushrooms, cleaned Canola oil 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt 1 tablespoon unsalted butter 3 tablespoons minced shallots 1 tablespoon minced thyme 3/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper Extra virgin olive oil 4 tablespoons (2 ounces) unsalted butter 1/2 recipe Herb Gnocchi , thawed if frozen Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper 2 tablespoons minced chives 1 tablespoon chopped Italian parsley 1/2 lemon
For the squash: It is easier to dice the neck of the butternut squash uniformly than the bulb, which is important for this recipe. We use the remaining bulb for soup. Cut off and discard the stem end of the squash, then cut off the neck. Use a paring knife or sharp vegetable peeler to slice away the peel deep enough to reach the bright orange flesh of the squash. Trim the neck to straighten the sides, then cut it lengthwise into 1/2-inch-thick slices. Cut the slices into 1/2-inch dice. (You need about 3 cups diced squash.) If you have less than 3 cups, peel the bulb of the squash, cut it in half, and scrape out the seeds. Trim and cut as much of the bulb as you need into 1/2-inch dice. Reserve the remaining squash for another use.
Line a baking sheet with paper towels.
Heat a thin film of canola oil over medium heat in a skillet large enough to hold the squash in a single layer (or cook the squash in two batches). When the oil is hot, add the butter and brown it lightly. Add the squash, salt and pepper to taste, and the sage leaves. Cook, stirring the pieces to brown them on all sides, for 4 to 6 minutes, or until tender throughout. Reduce the heat as necessary to cook the squash and brown it lightly, without burning; the best way to see if the squash is fully cooked is to eat a piece. Drain the squash on one end of the paper towel–lined baking sheet and set aside the sage leaves for the garnish. Wipe out the skillet with a paper towel and set aside.
For the mushrooms: Trim away the tough stems and cut the caps into 1/4-inch-thick slices.
Heat a thin film of canola oil in the same skillet over high heat. When the oil begins to smoke, add the mushrooms and salt and sauté for about a minute. The mushrooms will absorb the oil and should not weep any liquid. Add the butter, shallots, thyme, and pepper, then toss and sauté until the mushrooms are thoroughly cooked, 3 to 4 minutes total. Drain the mushrooms on the paper towel–lined baking sheet. The gnocchi should be cooked in two skillets: Wipe out the mushroom skillet with paper towels and add a light coating of olive oil to it and to a second large skillet.
To complete: Heat the oil over medium-high heat until hot. Add 1 tablespoon of the butter to each skillet. When the butter has browned, divide the gnocchi between the two skillets and season to taste with salt and pepper. Once the gnocchi have begun to brown, shake and rotate the skillets, tossing the gnocchi so that they brown and crisp on all sides, about 2 1/2 minutes.
Add the squash, mushrooms, and chives and heat just through. Spoon the gnocchi and vegetables onto serving plates and return one skillet to high heat. Add the remaining 2 tablespoons butter and cook until it is a rich brown, then quickly add the parsley to crackle for a few seconds. Standing back—the butter will spatter—add a squeeze of lemon half. Spoon the brown butter and herbs over the gnocchi and around the plates. Garnish with the reserved sage leaves.
Let's just get this out of the way - stop dancing around the issue. Nobody wants to say it and it has to be said. Someone has to be bold enough to step up on the dias and yell it as loudly as they possibly can. That someone might as well be me.
Jennifer Aniston is a celebrity - She is NOT a movie star!
All hail the hideous rinovirus. The petri dishes we call children delivered the fine infection last Saturday just in time for our annual Christmas Tree hunt. By the end of the day the tree stood proudly in our living room as my wife and I lay exhausted on our bed. Bless my mother's presence or the household would have collapsed. She kept the healthy kids occupied so the Mrs. and I could whine and wail.
Sadly mom left yesterday with our return to health still days away. So we, my wife and I, trade shifts in slumber knowing full well the holiday responsibilities pile up even as we rest.
And the tree stands proudly still, though it remains entirely naked - undecorated until we get the energy, any energy, to properly go at it.
I picked the Boy up from school yesterday. It was cold out and in the closing darkness of winter he played with the other kids on the playground. Bundled in a new fuzzy brown fleece and climbing on the monkey bars with his back to me, he had the appearance of a bear cub. I watched him as he alternated between concentration and laughter, maneuvering through the metal rungs. He was as happy as any person has ever been and I felt that never distant, but sometimes ignored, deep feeling in the pit of my stomach that is warm and overwhelming and indescribable.
When he finally turned and saw me he grinned and leaped from the bars. He raced to me and threw his arms around me, embracing me tightly and yelling, "Daddy! I missed you."
There are battles to come that will make the daily skirmishes over bath and bedtime pale in comparison, but moments like that one - simple grand perfection - make my life ideal.
I had my annual physical last week. During the course of the exam I asked my soft-spoken, mexican-born, primary physician for a referral to a urologist. "I want to get a vasectomy," I explained. He asked me why and I told him that this child will be our last and shared the fact that my wife had gotten pregnant while still nursing our youngest and while on the pill. My elderly doctor paused, lifted his eyebrows, looked me up and down and then smiled broadly as he proclaimed, "Usted es muy macho!"
Remember my Clinton Constitution post last week? Article 1, section 6 of the U.S. Constitution specifies that no member of congress may take a government position if during their term in congress the position they might take received a raise. Clinton was in the senate when the cabinet got salary increases last year.
Well, it has happened before. During the Taft administration Philander Knox was named Secretary of State. He had been in congress when nominated and the Cabinet had gotten a raise. Congress got around it by lowering the salary to its previous amount. Same with Lloyd Bentsen when he was named Secretary of the Treasury during the first Clinton administration.
The problem is there are constitutional scholars that claim this "salary rollback" doesn't solve the problem since that remedy is not specifically provided in the clause - the appointment of those men and of Clinton is not constitutional.
Even more interesting to all of us is the court's apparent feeling that the average U.S. citizen has no legal standing to challenge the appointments in court; that once the Senate approves the appointment Joe Public has nothing to say about it. It's our constitution, it's our government, the appointments are of keen interest to all of of us and our interests, yet we can't challenge it in any court. That's seriously disturbing.
It all may be moot, however. Even the sceptical scholars agree that the clause in question provides an out that gets Clinton in to the Cabinet; a technicality that opens its own ugly little door. Article 1, section 6 specifically says "his Continuance in Office". Clinton gets in because the clause doesn't apply to her due to its gender specificity. Yay, Hillary Clinton gets the Secretary of State position - 18 million cracks in the glass ceiling are happy. Except that means the Constitution is now interpreted as gender specific and how many rights and privileges refer to "him" or "his" or "he" or "man" or "men".
Irony - that always present irony - isn't always funny; sometimes it's thoroughly unpleasant. I believe the term is bittersweet.